A Three-Letter Solution to the Three-Letter Problem

by Aaron Woodman

aaron-woodman-chicago-real-estate-consultant

Aaron Woodman is a former agent and property manager who has sold $200 million in real estate assets and managed more than 1,600 multifamily units.

Which came first – the real estate career or the ADD?

I recently attended an open house that was hosted by an agent with less capacity for focus than a cat in a room with a laser pointer. Between making dinner plans with his wife on his Bluetooth, checking in with the office via email and asking me sign in on his iPad, showing me around the house seemed about his lowest priority.

As I’ve mentioned before, the nature of selling real estate forces most agents to wear many hats. The demands of an intensely competitive business climate and the current dependence on new technology have made multitasking a necessary reality of the business. Now many agents are not only tasked with filling the multiple positions that their business demands, but are also forced to become amateur information architects, constantly struggling with the question of where (cabinets, laptops, phones, cloud storage) and how (paper files, digital data, email correspondence) data from each transaction should be stored for access and use.

A few years ago, I read A.J. Jacobs’ hilarious and relevant book, “The Guinea Pig Diaries.” For one month, Jacobs was determined to stop the mental and physical juggling of multitasking by putting 100 percent focus into one activity. He found it was a boon to productivity, saving him time on individual tasks by not spending time trying to execute others in his head simultaneously. After watching the Realtor who was too distracted to show me a property, who thus lost my business, I began to wonder – is this multitasking truly essential? Are agents being proactive in reigning in the distractions that undermine the growth of their business, or exacerbating the problem with their practices?

Unfortunately, the real estate industry is not conducive to Jacobs’ single-project focus experiment. A thriving agent can fill the day with simple tasks for new and prospective clients with different goals and at different stages of the transaction. As Nobel Prize winner Herbert Simon said, “A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” What the modern real estate agent needs is a platform that can organize contact and transaction information, prioritize the functions of the agent’s business, and act as a command center for executing tasks on a day-to-day basis. Enter Customer Relationship Management (CRM). CRM systems act as the mainframe of your workflow, pulling in contact information, deadlines, to-do lists, and communications to make the mind focused on one place.

Selecting the right CRM can be the most difficult aspect of the process. The changing business landscape has brought on a deluge of companies entering the CRM industry, and each holds its own advantages. There are CRMs suited to high volumes of transactions (Salesforce), small teams (Highrise) and even one engineered specifically for real estate agents (Top Producer). The challenge comes in assessing your own patterns of behavior and seeing how each CRM reacts to your practice. If you tend to be thorough and detail-oriented in every aspect of your business, you may prefer to use a CRM with a wealth of features; however, if you’d prefer to use a simple system that sticks to essentials, using a feature-heavy CRM may only end up distracting you further.

At a basic level, a CRM will bring together your business contacts and allow you to associate the pertinent sales transactions, tasks, deadlines and communications to their records. To facilitate process integration, oftentimes CRMs will also include an email client within the software – however, it can be difficult to transition from a backbone of communications, and few of the email clients are as robust or user-friendly as popular clients like Outlook or Gmail. Fortunately, most CRMs include third-party add-ons that allow you to continue using your traditional email client while allowing you to import important communications into your CRM contact records.

As beneficial as CRM is for organizing and prioritizing the easily distracted professional, it’s only going to serve you well if you commit to using it. Most of the major CRMs available offer a trial period, which is recommended not only for testing the interface for personal preference, but also for knowing if you’re suited to using CRM at all. The trial period of a CRM will include a heavy front-end workload that includes importing contacts and other information as well as learning the functions and layout of the CRM.

If you’re unwilling to focus on inputting and organizing data, using a CRM may not be right for you (and neither may the strenuous life of a career agent). It won’t decrease your workload – it will only make it more fluid.

Aaron has sold over $200 million in real estate assets and has managed a portfolio of over 1600 multi-family units, working for several large property management companies as well as for Exit Realty and Keller Williams Realty. Recently, he has focused his efforts on using his breadth of experience to act as consultant for a variety of real estate businesses, including individual residential brokers across the country, national property management firms, and real estate technology start-ups. Find him on https://twitter.com/aaronwoodman and http://woodmanconsultinggroup.com.

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